Jeff Gordon previews today’s game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs at 12:45 p.m. (FSM) at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
THE STAKES: After getting another day off thanks to Wednesday's heavy rains, the Cardinals will have an opportunity to win their season-opening series against the Cubs after splitting the first two games. That would be an excellent way to start a bounce-back season.
PITCHING FOR THE CARDINALS: Lance Lynn (12-11, 3.03 ERA in 2015). After missing last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Lynn looked like his old self during spring training. In five exhibition appearances spanning 15 innings, he was 1-1 with a 1.20 ERA.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo (10 for 29, three doubles, two homers, eight RBIs) and outfielder Jason Heyward (3 for 8, two doubles, three RBIs) have hit Lynn well over the years.
PITCHING FOR THE CUBS: John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA last season). The former Cardinals hurler fared well against his old team last year. In four starts he was 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA. He struck out 31 batters in 26 2/3 innings and held the Cardinals to a .200 batting average.
Matt Carpenter is 0 for 11 in his career against Lackey, who has also shut down Stephen Piscotty (1 for 9) and Jedd Gyorko (1 for 8). Dating back to their American League days, Jhonny Peralta is 12 for 37 against Lackey with a double, a homer and five RBIs.
LINEUP INTRIGUE: The unscheduled day off gave Piscotty more time to recover from getting beaned by an errant throw as he slid home. But manager Mike Matheny sat him anyway, giving Matt Adams the start in left field as the No. 5 hitter. Yadier Molina moved up to the cleanup spot, Randal Grichuk is in the No. 6 spot playing right field. Gyorko replaced Peralta at third base, batting seventh.
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Aledmys Diaz, SS
3. Matt Carpenter, 1B
4. Yadier Molina, C
5. Matt Adams, LF
6. Randal Grichuk, RF
7. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
8. Kolten Wong, 2B
9. Lance Lynn, P
BULLPEN INTRIGUE: After throwing 38 pitches in the opener Sunday night, closer Seung Hwan Oh got another day off Wednesday after not appearing in Tuesday night's loss. Matt Bowman, Brett Cecil, Kevin Siegrist and Jonathan Broxton each threw a shutout inning during the game to get settled in.
DOWN ON THE FARM: Pitching prospect Jack Flaherty made a favorable impression when the Cardinals played their Double-A affiliate last week in Springfield. He threw four shutout innings against the parent club, working around four hits and two walks.
While Flaherty lacks the electric fastball of prospects like Sandy Alcantara, he is developing a full pitch arsenal with an excellent feel for pitching. Pitching as a 20-year-old at advanced Class A Palm Beach last season, he finished 5-9 with a 3.63 ERA.
Alcantara crossed over to pitch for the parent Cardinals in that Springfield exhibition and struck out the side in his inning of relief work. As a 20-year-old he split last season between Class A Peoria and Palm Beach. He is still developing his secondary stuff and his command, so he could eventually punch his big league ticket as a reliever.
Promising prospects Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon and Dakota Hudson are also penciled into the Springfield rotation to start the season. Each has big league potential.
Keep an eye on speedy center fielder Jose Adolis Garcia, the Cuban import who went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored in that game. At 24, he is a mature talent adapting to the North American game. He is starting the season in Springfield, but he could ascend to the Triple-A level this season and reach the majors by September.
Rival teams will scout Springfield heavily this season to assess the trade chips Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is stacking up.